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  • Writer's pictureNJ Holden

Personal Book of the Year

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

As the year draws to a close, I decided to make a list of the best books that I read. I have Goodreads now to help me keep track and a blog where I can post my thoughts, so why not?

If you follow me on Goodreads, you may notice that some of those books got 4 stars while there are 5-stars books that I don’t consider “the best”. This is because the books that stayed with me made me think and often wish for more. It was easier to notice flaws and therefore lower the overall rating. On the other hand, some books were pleasant and easy to read, but otherwise forgettable. That’s why I think it’s important while looking for recommendation to not just look at the rating, but read the reviews. But now that I became an author I feel reluctant to post reviews, especially of indie books, in case I become famous one day and my reviews will be seen by thousands of people, making or breaking someone’s career.

Anyway, here are the books that impacted me this year. Mind you, these are not reviews (though I think I reviewed a few of them on GR), just the things that struck me in the books and made me think of them many months after finishing the last page.

Before and After – a post-apocalyptic book starring a morbidly obese man who gets abandoned during the Apocalypse. A touching book, not so much because of the Apocalypse, but because of what happened before it—and what drove Ben to where he was at the beginning. Fat, sick, depressed, locked in his apartment he hasn’t left for nine years, and on a way to self-destruction.

Drowned Country (The Greenhollow Duology, #2) – I mean, #1 was okay and you should probably read it before diving into this one, but Drowned Country enraptured me with the description of incomprehensible, almost Lovecraftian other world. I loved it. And you could read it in one afternoon, so what the hell are you waiting for?

The Arrival – hard to say that I read it, as it’s a picture book, but it works surprisingly well at telling stories and the illustrations—and their arrangement—are absolutely stunning. It’s almost like silent movie in a book form. And the author’s imagination is amazing.

The Game – a horror/thriller. Every year some men randomly disappear, kidnapped by the mysterious Jester and send in a cat-and-mouse game across the multiverse. What I especially loved about the book was the description of male characters being vulnerable, but supporting each other, instead of being dicks like most male characters in our pop culture. We need more male friendship in popculture. Men not afraid of showing their vulnerability and supporting each other through hard times.

(Funny thing, I found this book on LGBT+ promo. I don’t know why, because nothing lgbt-related happens. Emotions don’t make you gay, you guys!)

Winter Masquerade – a hard to categorize story in which the main character suddenly finds himself in a Wonderland-like world, on a ship sailing an ocean of chocolate and full of whimsy characters (including a slew of single ladies: Miss Assumption, Miss Calculation, Miss Representation and so on). The characters he meets help him to go back home and to do that they ask him about his previous life. But as soon as he starts talking about his boyfriend, the Wonderland turns into a Nightmareland. Need I say more?

The Black Tides of Heaven (Tensorate, #1) – after a long time I think I like the premise of the story more than the execution. The action takes place in a world where people are born with no gender and can choose whether to be a male or female upon reaching maturity (if I had that choice, there's no way in hell I would choose to be a female).

What lesson can we take from this list? Well, I still claim that my favorite genre is fantasy. Even though none of my favorite books this year belong to it. I read a lot of fantasy, but most of it was mediocre or good but silly to the point I consider it my guilty pleasure. I have a few (dozen) fantasy books rounded up so hopefully, the next year will be better for the genre. Maybe the lesson here is that you need to branch out to find things to inspire you.

What was your favorite book this year?

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